King Lake - High Lonesome - Devils Thumb Lake Loop, Hessie Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

King Lake - High Lonesome - Devils Thumb Lake Loop - 14.75 miles

Hessie Trailhead

View over King Lake from the High Lonesome Trail

View over King Lake from the High Lonesome Trail

Round-Trip Length: 14.75 miles
Start-End Elevation: 9,009' - 12,105' (max elevation)
Elevation Change: +3,096' net elevation gain (+3,376' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

King Lake - High Lonesome - Devils Thumb Lake Loop - 14.75 Miles Round-Trip

The High Lonesome Trail connects the King Lake and Devils Thumb Lake trails to form a 14.75 mile loop through the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The route runs west up S. Fork Middle Boulder Creek valley to King Lake and the High Lonesome Trail on the Divide.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The High Lonesome turns north and rolls across open tundra for 2.5 miles to the Devils Thumb Lake Trail, which drops east to Devils Thumb Lake, Jasper Lake and back to Hessie.

The following describes clockwise travel, recommended for a milder up-valley climb and favorable lighting:

The trail begins on a steep dirt road that merges with South Fork Middle Boulder Creek at the King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass Trail split (.85 miles : 9,455'). It continues by the creek to the Lost Lake Trail split (1.1 miles : 9,582') and levels into a meadow at the King Lake - Woodland Lake Trail split (1.3 miles : 9,600').

The trail enters a mixed pine forest and climbs steadily for the better part of 2.5 miles with little variation up the south flank of Woodland Mountain. South Fork Middle Boulder Creek is audible much of the way, but its location is largely concealed by timber.

Travel eases in a meadow at the base of Guinn Mountain (3.85 miles : 10,437'), past which the creek and trail merge in a thinning forest.

The trail abruptly banks right up switchbacks (4.75 miles : 10,904') that level off near treeline at the King Lake - Bob and Betty Lakes Trail split (5.0 miles : 11,108'). Veer left over the creek, which can flow heavily and obscure the path.

The trail rises through open airy landscapes highlighted by wildflowers and rangy views back down valley. The trail is well-cut, but may be overgrown or snow-covered in places.

An unmarked spur veers right to a large pond just before reaching King Lake (5.25 miles : 11,339'); a few minutes ahead another spur branches right (5.38 miles) - this is King Lake (5.4 miles : 11,430').

The trail continues up King Lake's south cirque wall to the Continental Divide and High Lonesome Trail (5.75 miles : 11,657') with views of Corona Lake, James Peak, Gore Range and Winter Park.

The High Lonesome Trail turns north and scales steep, tightly wound switchbacks over King Lake to the west of side of the Divide's apical ridge.

The trail levels (6.5 miles : 11,966') with unabated views down the western slope before pushing uphill once again to its highest point (7.0 miles : 12,105'), located just behind Bob Lake. Travel moderates for .5 miles, dips to avoid willow thickets and scree (7.5 miles), then rises back to the High Lonesome Trail - Devils Thumb Trail junction (8.05 miles : 11,810').

Bear right on the Devils Thumb Trail up to Devils Thumb Pass - a thin saddle on the Divide (8.25 miles : 11,967'). The Devils Thumb Trail turns down the east side of the Divide on a steep, winding path that levels in a broad alpine flat with a large pond near Devils Thumb Lake (8.85 miles : 11,257').

Devils Thumb Lake is long, slender and bound tightly by the north valley wall. Social trails branch to various points along the shore, or you may continue on the main trail to the willow-shrouded outlet (9.25 miles : 11,138').

The trail drops steeply beside Devils Thumb Lake's outlet to a meadow and re-enters an undulating forest in the upper valley (9.75 miles : 10,908'). Travel moderates by campsites on the south shore of Jasper Lake (10.05 miles : 10,967'), and across the outlet to an access spur on the southeast shore (10.4 miles : 10,814').

The trail continues past Jasper Lake on a damp, intermittently steep and ill-defined path into the lower-valley; connections with the Diamond Lake Trail (11.0 miles : 10,675') and Woodland Lake Trail (12.55 miles : 9,792') are useful progress markers on the descent.

The forest breaks at a large meadow (13.1 miles : 9,670') past the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary sign. It re-enters thick forest (13.5 miles : 9,625') and twists steeply down Jasper Creek to the King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass Trail junction and conclusion of the loop (13.9 miles : 9,455'). Retrace your steps back to the Hessie Trailhead (14.75 miles : 9,009').

If you like this loop you may also like the Jasper - Devils Thumb - Storm Lake Loop!

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 57.278 W105 36.192 — 0.0 miles : Hessie Trailhead
  • N39 57.330 W105 36.780 — .85 miles : King Lake - Devils Thumb Bypass split
  • N39 57.251 W105 37.193 — 1.3 miles : King Lake - Woodland Lake Trail split
  • N39 56.962 W105 38.698 — 2.75 miles : Travel up-valley in dense forest
  • N39 56.839 W105 39.435 — 3.45 miles : Travel continues up-valley in dense forest
  • N39 56.608 W105 40.753 — 4.75 miles : Begin switchbacks up steep ridge
  • N39 56.599 W105 40.902 — 5.0 miles : King Lake - Betty and Bob Lakes split
  • N39 56.477 W105 41.169 — 5.4 miles : King Lake
  • N39 56.260 W105 41.236 — 5.75 miles : King Lake Trail - High Lonesome Trail junc
  • N39 56.637 W105 41.732 — 6.5 miles : Level travel on High Lonesome Trail
  • N39 57.034 W105 41.767 — 7.0 miles : Crest on high point behind Bob Lake
  • N39 57.832 W105 41.469 — 8.05 miles : High Lonesome - Devils Thumb Trail split
  • N39 57.988 W105 41.322 — 8.25 miles : Devils Thumb Trail - saddle on Divide
  • N39 58.416 W105 40.543 — 9.25 miles : Devils Thumb Lake
  • N39 58.488 W105 39.615 — 10.4 miles : Jasper Lake spur
  • N39 58.475 W105 39.107 — 11.0 miles : Diamond Lake Trail junction
  • N39 57.848 W105 37.935 — 12.55 miles : Woodland Lake Connector Trail junction
  • N39 57.543 W105 37.547 — 13.1 miles : Enter Large Meadow
  • N39 57.330 W105 36.780 — 13.9 miles : Complete Loop
  • N39 57.278 W105 36.192 — 14.75 miles : Hessie Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • Just before reaching King Lake you'll pass an unmarked spur (5.25 miles : 11,339') that veers right to a small, hidden lake. Those camping out should consider setting up in this attractive area.
  • Upper portions of the King Lake and Devils Thumb trails are intermittently steep, rocky and ill-defined; spring runoff and lingering snow may obscure the path. Follow signs carefully, be patient with route finding and minimize erosion by staying on designated trails.
  • Afternoon thunderstorms form quickly over the Continental Divide. Manage time wisely and avoid exposed travel - especially on the High Lonesome Trail - when storms approach.
  • Anticipate changing weather conditions throughout the day and as you gain and lose elevation. Carry versatile layers, sun, wind and rain protection.
  • Look for elk, marmot and ptarmigan on the route's higher elevations. Moose can be seen from the High Lonesome Trail down the western slope in mid-summer, and occasionally east of the Divide come fall.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for backcountry camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, June 1 - Sept. 15. Permits are limited.
  • Permits are $5 per party. Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Boulder Ranger District (303.541.2500) in advance to secure a permit.
  • Permits must be picked up in person at either Ranger Station, or ordered in advance by mail. There is no online reservation system for permits.
  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs. Group size is limited to 12 people or people+stock combined.
  • Campfires are prohibited east of the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (including King Lake, Devils Thumb Lake and Jasper Lake), as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls on the west side of the Divide.
  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Travel Zones.
  • Camping is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Travel Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.
  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.
  • Stock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in the Indian Peaks Wilderness with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The Hessie Trailhead is located in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, CO

From downtown Nederland, go south on Highway 72 for .5 miles to County Road 130 and make a right. You will see a sign for Eldora Ski Resort at this junction. Continue on Highway 130 through the town of Eldora, just past which it becomes a dirt road (4 miles).

2WD drive conditions end 4.8 miles from the Highway 72 turnoff. 4WD vehicles may veer left at this demarcation and continue another .5 miles to the trailhead. Others will have to park at one of the limited roadside spaces and walk the 4WD road to the trailhead.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
USDA Forest Service
2140 Yarmouth Ave.
Boulder, CO 80301

Sulphur Ranger District
9 Ten Mile Drive
P.O. Box 10
Granby, Colorado 80446

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Hiked the loop clockwise - Would recommend. I read in one of the reviews to camp at King Lake, so planned on and did end up camping there - Not recommended. There's a trail leading up to Bob and Betty Lakes less than a mile from King Lake and that would be a better, covered location for camping. The Eastern Continental Divide (High Lonesome) is awesome and well worth taking a moment to enjoy it. Devil's Pass had a huge snow drift that made it a little precarious to cross with a pack on. Gorgeous views inside the valley with Devil's Thumb Lake and Jasper Lake. I camped at Jasper, which was nice except for all the foot traffic from day hikers. Overall it was a sweet 16 mile loop - pretty strenuous, but well worth it."
Jack  -  Asheville, NC  -  Date Posted: June 25, 2018
"June 23, 2018 Trip Report: Absolute beautiful weather for this hike. No storms, just amazing blue sky and warmish temps for an all day hike. I did the loop, King Lake first (clockwise) and then over the High Lonesome Trail down to Devil’s Thumb. Trail to King Lake is easy to moderate in my opinion. No snow left on the ground until right around 3 miles in from the King Lake trail split off (or 4 miles from trailhead), and then only small patches here and there. The snow was of no consequence once I did encounter it, so no trouble getting to King Lake. There was a bit of snow on the trail that leads you up to High Lonesome Trail junction, but again, not enough to keep you from getting where you want to go. Once up on the Continental Divide, it was extremely windy, but nonetheless, offered spectacular views and good easy trail conditions. If weather permits, take your time on this section and really soak up how awesome the landscape and views are, and count your blessings you get to experience such things. There was another patch of snow right before you begin your decent down the Devil’s Thumb trail to the lake. This patch is a bit tricky and requires the utmost of caution. The patch is only about 6 or 7 feet wide, so you are not on it long before hitting dry boulders to walk on. The trial down to the lake is steep, rocky and narrow. Poles would be nice if you have bad knees, or want to protect your knees! The only area of trouble I got in following the trail was between Devil’s Thumb lake and Jasper Lake. There was a large patch of snow on the trail amount some trees and I got off to the right following foot prints only to realize about a 1/4 mile in, that I had gone the wrong way. My instincts told me Jasper was to my left, but instead of bushwhacking it through forest, I turned around and back tracked to where I lost the actual trail. This little detour cost me an extra mile of hiking. Once at Jasper Lake, the trail down is easy to find and follow. Overall, I would say this entire loop hike is strenuous. I can see now that going counter-clockwise is the much harder way. Side Note: I called the Forest Service the day before for tail conditions, and they advised me to wait 2 more weeks before doing the loop. However once at King Lake, I saw so many people coming over from the Devil’s Thumb route, that I asked several people what the trail was like. Armed with their trail repots, I went for it. And was glad I did. I logged a total of 19 miles for the hike."
Ann  -  Superior, CO  -  Date Posted: June 24, 2018
"My advice, Start early at the Hessie Trailhead. Enjoy the hike past Jasper and Devils Thumblake. countless lakes, streams, wildflowers and amazing views await you. If you have a night to spare camp at one of the lakes ($5 is all it cost at the Boulder Ranger Station) If you camp at Devils Thumb Lake, this will put you at 5 miles in of you 15-mile full journey. If you don't have an extra night to spare (make one) press on up to Continental Divide Trail. This will be the hardest part of the hike and will may require a break or two. But it's so worth it. The top of the trail which puts you on the CDT is truly the crown jewel of the entire hike with tons of wildflowers and views! You will now loop back to Kings Lake Trail. This loop is second to none for such a short distance and has everything. Wildlife, waterfalls, streams, lakes, wildflowers and we even saw a rainbow. What else do you want?"
Kevin R  -  Thornton  -  Date Posted: July 18, 2017
"We did this loop clockwise as suggested and camped near King Lake and Devil's Thumb Lake. Wildflowers galore and still plenty of runoff. The stream crossing near King Lake was a bit of a challenge for one of the timid dogs. The trail was clear of snow except for one small (maybe 20ft) section at the top of the hike down into Devil's Thumb Lake. Overall a beautiful, moderately challenging hike. Get there early if you want to park near the shuttle drop off/porta-potties. 4 wheel drive needed to get the last ~1/3mi to make it to the actual trailhead."
Fania  -  Wheat Ridge  -  Date Posted: July 17, 2017
"ps: And don't count on driving the last 1/2 mile unless your car has really high clearance. An Outback for example is not even close to making it."
Buzz  -  Arvada, CO  -  Date Posted: July 6, 2015
"Just a note that the trail does *not* descend Devils Thumb Pass. The trail descriptions are correct, but the sentence in the second paragraph can lead you to try that pass especially if you're looking at an old map when the trail did go there."
Buzz  -  Arvada, CO  -  Date Posted: July 6, 2015


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